DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

March 2016

Mar 28 2016

March is Women’s History Month

by Jencey G

A recent book that was released in the DCPL system is The Forgotten Room which includes local author Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig.   They collaborated to a write book that integrates the skills of each author to tell one seamless story.  Did I also mention that writing The Forgotten Roomthis kind of book has not been done before?  Readers are left with the question which author wrote which part of the book?

The story is told from three different points of view.  Kate Schulyer starts the story.  She is a doctor during World War II at a hospital in New York.  A patient arrives that night named Captain Ravenel.   Kate doesn’t get much credit for her skills as a doctor, but decides to take on his case anyway.  Can she cure him?  Olive Van Alan is demoted from well to do debutante to house maid.  The Pratt mansion she works in is the same one that her father designed, and we also know as the hospital during World War II.  Olive’s presence coincides with dealing with her feelings about her father’s death. Will she be able to get her revenge?  Then there is Lucy Young who works at a law office and conveniently rents a room in the Pratt mansion.  Her eyes are set on working with the young Mr. Schulyer who has the Pratt family as a client.   Will she be able to find out what has happened to her family?

This book is very interesting!  I have read books by both Karen White and Beatriz William.  I was not able to see whose writing is whose.  I haven’t read anything by Lauren Willig the third author, but I plans to.   The book is structured so that each chapter is either Kate, Lucy, or Olive’s story.    Just enough is revealed to keep the reader interested and continuing through the story.   I highly recommend this book!

You can read more by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig in our catalogue.  Don’t forget to check out The Forgotten Room.

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Mar 24 2016

Mommy and Me

by Hope L

MommyRecently the Workplace Advisory Group of the DeKalb County Public Library volunteered for a project to help the Mommy and Me Family Literacy Program located in Clarkston.  The DCPL volunteers will be fixing up a space in the school for mothers and their children to read and relax during their school day.

The Mommy and Me Refugee Family Literacy Program is a nonprofit school located in the heart of Clarkston where immigrant mothers and their children learn together.

When I found out about this program, I was delighted.  For a time I worked at the Clarkston Branch of DCPL, and it was (and is) a very busy place!  There were many immigrant children, most of them refugees whose families fled to this country from their homelands.

According to their website, the school’s students come from more than a dozen countries from around the world: Eritrea, Burma, Bhutan, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Burundi.

From the Mommy and Me website,

​We are a nonprofit school located in the heart of Clarkston, Georgia where immigrant mothers and children learn together.

A family literacy program, we offer four components of instruction: (1) ESOL classes for refugee women, (2) onsite early childhood development program for their young children, (3) Parent and Child Time sessions to promote family engagement, and (4) weekly workshops on parenting, health/nutrition, and life skills.

“Clarkston’s transformation dates back to the late 1980’s, when the U.S. State Department and various resettlement agencies chose Clarkston as an ideal site for refugee resettlement.  A mass exodus of middle-class whites to Atlanta’s more affluent suburbs left behind inexpensive apartments that could serve as affordable housing for newly arrived refugee families.  The easternmost stop on MARTA, Clarkston also offered its residence access to public transit and a commute to employment opportunities in Atlanta.”

To find out more about the program or to volunteer or make a donation, click on the link below:

Mommy and Me Family Literacy | about us

 

 

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Mar 21 2016

Vegas, Baby!

by Hope L

Ouvegasr recent trip to Sin City was so much fun.  But unlike 30 years ago, when I was busy scarfing up the bargain buffets up and down Las Vegas Blvd., sampling pounds of the product at a chocolates factory, and singing along with Barry Manilow (“Oh, Mandy!  Well you came and you gave without taa-king …”) at a show (well, it was the 80’s!), I found myself in a city totally changed – unrecognizable from where I last left my hard-earned dollars.

There is no such thing anymore as ‘cheap eats,’ free this or that (unless you are a very high roller) or kitschy cafes.  No, Vegas – save for The Fremont Street Experience and several of the quickie wedding chapels downtown – is now a fancy-shmantzy collection of hotels, convention venues, and high-end shopping meccas, with of course swank casinos sprinkled in the mix.

For example, we ate breakfast at the hotel where we stayed, The Venetian, and it would cost us $40 with no problem.  A steak dinner ran around $85 per person (plus sides and drinks!) one evening at a restaurant in the Venetian Restaurant Row. I had the fish stew which was $37, plus $12 if you wanted a  side dish of mashed potatoes, asparagus, etc.  It was a very tasty meal, but come on!

venhall

And, even though it was shocking that everything has changed, there was still a lot of smoking going on in Vegas!  I guess there is no such thing as a non-smoking establishment in a town nicknamed Sin City, where drinking, eating and gambling excessively are the order of the day.

Fortunately, though, out West there is so much to do and so many things to see, that one need not get bogged down in anything that is not to their  liking.  While we did mostly the casino/restaurant/shopping thing this time, there is a natural wonder (Grand Canyon National Park) and other worthwhile scenic wonders (Zion National Park, Death Valley, Hoover Dam) within driving distance from Las Vegas.  We went on a beautiful helicopter tour of Hoover Dam, and I swear the pilot (a petite blonde gal barely old enough to drive a car, let alone fly a helicopter) could’ve been my granddaughter!

Before going – even though I had lived in Arizona years ago and had traveled to all of these places – I consulted with some publications available at DCPL, one of my favorites being:  Fodor’s 2016 Las Vegas  by writers Jason Drago, Heidi Rinella, Susan Stapleton, Matt Villano, Mike Weatherford ; editor, Eric B. Wechter,  which was a good basic refresher on the area and more importantly, on the different types of gambling one might encounter and the strategies and odds on each; and Luck : understanding luck and improving the odds by Barrie Dolnick and Anthony H. Davidson.

After this trip, I now ‘understand’ that luck comes and goes!

And so … I had a lot of fun:  ate too much, gambled too much (and lost too much money), and shopped too much.  But Vegas is a place just made for going overboard.  And, “What happens in Vegas …”

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Mar 18 2016

Tastes Funny

by Dea Anne M

If you read this blog with any regularity, you might assume that I read only thrillers, memoirs and cookbooks. Of course, having just said that, I realize how very flattering to myself I’m being to even imagine that you’d devote a spare moment toward considering my reading habits. In any case,  I am, in fact, a huge fan of humorous writing – both fiction and non. Of course “funny” is subjective but I consistently find myself favoring sly, ironic, often British, writing such as that practiced by H. H. Munro – better known as Saki – and Pelham Grenville Wodehouse – better known as P. G. Wodehouse. I have also enjoyed some of Dorothy Parker’s and Christopher Moore’s writing as well aseducation  the absurdities and antic word plays of James Thurber. But one of the writers I have most enjoyed over the years is someone who is still active today – Calvin Trillin.

Trillin, primarily a print journalist, has worked for Time magazine as well as The Nation and is currently on the staff of The New Yorker. In fact, it was his reporting for the latter on the integration of the University of Georgia that became his first book,   An Education in Georgia: Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes and the integration of the University of Georgia.  Trillin is also a well-known poet – particularly on the teppersubject of politics. The George W. Bush presidency, in particular, receives his wry treatment in Obliviously On He Sails and A Heckuva Job. More recent poems appear in Dogfight: the 2012 Presidential campaign in verse.  Trillin is also the author of a well-received (and very funny) novel Tepper Isn’t Going Out. As may be apparent, Trillin addresses a wide range of subjects in his writing but the concerns that seem to be closest to his heart are travel, food and family. In fact, it is Trillin’s family stories which are some of the most interesting and emotionally rewarding.

His daughters, Abigail and Sarah, have appeared often in his essays – and still do even though both are adults now with families of their own. Both girls, even raised as they were in the culinary paradise of New York City by parents with adventurous tastes, were apparently extremely picky eaters. Which is perhaps odd…or maybe familynot odd at all.  The young Sarah, for example, always insisted on carrying a bagel with her on family trips to New York “just in case.” Abigail, who sounds like the soul of kindness, was “complimenting me on my Cheerios until she wised up at about the age of three.” Trillin’s Family Man is a delightful meditation on the anxieties and joys of raising children written by a man who clearly – and very happily – has always put his family at the very center of his life. Just as lovely, and to my mind incredibly moving, is his portrait of his wife, Alice Stewart Trillin who died of heart disease on September 11, 2001. About Alice is a wonderful tribute to a woman who he clearly adored and who, from the moment he first met her in 1963, never stopped trying to impress.

It was Trillin’s food writing though that hooked me first, most specifically, the so-called Tummy Trilogy – which consists of the books American Fried, Alice, Let’s Eat and Third Helpings (you can find the first and the third of these at DCPL). Trillin makes it clear that he isn’t much of a cook saying that, in the kitchen, he is “more of an idea man.” Still his culinary writing reveals the open mind, liberal taste buds and zestful approach to living that signify a gourmet of the best sort. Some of Trillin’s funniest quotes come from these books, for example:

(on revolving dining palaces situated at the top of tall buildings) “I never eat in a restaurant that’s over a hundred feet off the ground and won’t stand still.”

(on his mother’s cooking) “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”

(speaking as a proud Mid-Western son about his native city) “The best restaurants in the world are, of course, in Kansas City.”

(on the hazards of venturing an opinion about what actually constitutes chili) “I like chili, but not enough to discuss it with yensomeone from Texas.”

You can find more of Trillin’s very amusing culinary essays in Feeding a Yen: savoring local specialities from Kansas City to Cuzco. For a worthwhile general sampling of his writing, check out Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin; forty years of funny stuff.

How about you? Are you a fan of humorous writing and, if so, who do you recommend that I read next?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 8 2016

Supreme Decisions

by Hope L

Supreme

The week after I started writing this particular blog, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away unexpectedly.

I was already writing a blog about the Supreme Court and how the upcoming presidential election would dramatically affect the Supreme Court of the U.S., or SCOTUS, as it is often referred to nowadays.

Now, the stakes are even higher as the highest court in the country is evenly split along ideological lines, with monumental cases hanging in the balance.

According to Jonathan Hobratsch, Writer Editor for the Literati Quarterly in a blog for The Huffington Post:

“If the next president wins two terms, regardless of the party, the Supreme Court could reach a near ideological monopoly unknown in the post-World War II era of American History, perhaps a monopoly never achieved since FDR’s eight Supreme Court nominations.

However, FDR presided during a time when both parties had liberal and conservative wings; therefore, there was more ideological overlap in a judicial nomination, even if he/she was from the opposing party.  With two deeply divided parties, the next president has a crucial influence on the future of the Supreme Court that is rarely discussed as we get closer to the 2016 election.”

justices

 

Or, consider what USA Today’s Richard Wolf wrote in his USA Today News online report:

“Wedged between the Republican and Democratic national conventions next July will fall an event of greater long term significance for the future of the republic:  Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 80th birthday.

Barring unforeseen events, Kennedy will become the third sitting octogenarian on the court – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 82 (and as of writing this DCPL blog, she is 83) and Justice Antonin Scalia turns 80 in March.  That will mark the first time since George H.W. Bush entered the White House more than a quarter century ago that a president has inherited three justices that old.  at 78 by then, Justice Stephen Breyer will be close behind.”

Some major cases to be heard in 2016 include those on immigration, voting districts, affirmative action for higher education students, union practices, state laws on abortion availability, and the Obamacare mandate on contraceptive coverage for employees at churches and other religions institutions.

I started searching the stacks of DCPL for anything SCOTUS-related, and I was absolutely stunned at the volume of material on the subject.  I mean, everything about the high court has been documented, explored and opined about.

And, the end of the last century had something new to write about the Supreme Court – a first throughout its history:  the naming of a female Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor.

O’Connor was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1981 and garnered unanimous senate approval; ironically, she was the “key swing vote in many important cases, including the upholding or Roe v. Wade,” according to the website Bio.com.

DCPL has many books on O’Connor, including: “Sandra Day O’Connor : How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became its Most Influential Justice by Joan Biskupic.

But one of my favorite reads has been Robert Schnakenberg’s “Secret Lives of the Supreme Court:  What Your Teachers Never Told You About America’s Legendary Justices.

 

supremebook

An interesting tidbit from this book about John Marshall, who spent 34 years as chief justice:

“Beyond his noble birthright (a distant relative of Thomas Jefferson), there was nothing much about Marshall’s upbringing that screamed “father of American jurisprudence.”  He had only a year of formal schooling and attended law lectures for less than three months.”

“…he dressed in a plain, occasionally disheveled, manner and did all his own grocery shopping.  A Virginia neighbor once saw him lugging a turkey home from the market, mistook him for a servant, and threw him some spare change.  Marshall humbly pocketed the money and went on his way with his bird.  A truly genial man, he won many a legal argument through conciliation and persuasion rather than confrontation and coercion – a fact that infuriated his political opponents.”

And, another item which I vaguely remembered and is covered in the book (but many people don’t realize): that President William Howard Taft, who had served as a U.S. District Court judge in his native Ohio, always had aspired to sit on the Supreme Court. He was steered instead into the presidency by both his wife and the outgoing president, Theodore Roosevelt.  He got his opportunity, however, when Republican Warren G. Harding sought him for an appointment to the high court.  Taft is the only former president to have sworn a new president into office (Calvin Coolidge in 1925 and Herbert Hoover in 1929).

Who knows?  If a Democrat is elected, perhaps Barack O’Bama could be a future justice.

One thing is certain, however – this country will be seeing many new faces on the Supreme Court in the coming years.

 

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Mar 4 2016

By Any Other Name

by Dea Anne M

I admit that I’m quite a bit late to the game, but I checked out The Cuckoo’s Calling over the weekend and have not cuckoobeen able to put it down. Really. Of course, by now, everyone knows that the novel’s author, Robert Galbraith, is actually J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame and that this book is the first in a series of detective novels featuring the very interesting and mysterious Cormoran Strike and his clever assistant Robin Ellacott. On the surface, these books seem as far away from the world of Harry Potter as it is possible to get, yet one could argue that the prominent plot of each of the Potter books involves the characters in attempting to unravel a mystery. Think about it – who is the Half-Blood Prince? What exactly are the Deathly Hallows? Rowling herself has declared “…that the Harry Potter books are whodunnits in disguise,” and she had often expressed a deep love for the detective genre. I can tell you right now that even though I’m not yet finished with the first book in the series I know that I will be tearing through the second and third (The Silkworm and Career of Evil respectively) and eagerly awaiting the fourth book and all those to follow.

So, one might ask, why a pseudonym, Joanne Rowling (J. K. Rowling itself is a pseudonym – Rowling’s name is Joanne – no middle name)? Apparently, her publisher feared that boys wouldn’t read the Potter books if it was obvious that they were written by a woman. Hard to believe now, I know – but plausible enough. There has been some public speculation that the decision to use the Robert Galbraith pseudonym was similarly publisher driven – and for similar reasoning based of supposed genre-driven reading preferences. However, Rowling herself has said that the Galbraith nom-de-plume reflects a desire to create something that can “stand or fall on its own merits.”

Many authors have used pen names and for many different reasons. Here are a few that you may already know, or that you may want to get re-acquainted with or meet for the first time.

bronteThe famous Bronte sisters – Anne, Charlotte and Emily – originally published their work under the pseudonym Acton, Currer and Ellis (respectively). In 1850, in a preface to the new combined edition of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, Charlotte Bronte, who of course wrote Jane Eyre, revealed that the sisters agreed to more  masculine pen names because they “had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.” If you want to know more about the work, and the daily lives, of these fascinating women, pick up The Bronte Cabinet: three lives in nine objects by Deborah Lutz at DCPL.

Globally beloved, and Nobel Prize winning, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda initially used that name in order to keep his publishing activities a secret from his father who disapproved of literature as a profession. Later, Neruda – whose given name was Ricardo Eliecer Reyes Basoalto – took the pseudonym as his legal name. You’ll find a number of Neruda’s books at DCPL including All the Odes and On the Blue Shore of Silence as well as Neruda: an intimate biography by Volodia Teitelboim.duck

Theo Lesieg, author of popular books for young readers such as I Wish That I Had Duck Feet! and Please Try To Remember the First of Octember! is the nom-de-plume of beloved writer/illustrator Dr. Seuss. Seuss is also a pen name as it is the middle name of Theodor Geisel – the “real” Dr. Seuss. Lesieg, of course, is Geisel spelled backwards. Check out Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel by Judith and Neil Morgan for more about this very interesting man.

Alice Bradley Sheldon will be better known to readers of science fiction as James Tiptree, Jr. Sheldon began publishing her provocative and unusual brand of fiction under the pen name in 1967 and her identity remained a secret until 1977 when enthusiastic fans ferreted out the truth. Why Sheldon used a pen name at all is open to debate as there doesn’t seem to have been any significant pressure on her to do so by family or the publishing world. It appears to have been a deeply personal decision on her part. In any case, Sheldon was a complicated person – as unusual as her fiction itself. Check out my previous post devoted to Sheldon here and if you’re interested in reading her work (which I highly recommend) check out Byte Beautiful: eight science fiction stories and Her Smoke Rose Up Forever – both available from DCPL. You can read more about Sheldon herself  in James Tiptree, Jr.: the double life nomof Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips.

You can read more about pen names in Carmela Ciuraru’s highly entertaining Nom de plume: a (secret) history of psuedonymns. Of course, I wonder how many pseudonyms have been selected because the author thought it sounded cool? Just for fun, here‘s a simple pen name generator. Or invent your own! What name would you publish under? Then again, you might want to keep that information under wraps!

 

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Mar 1 2016

Adele 25 Review

by Arthur G

Four years ago, Adele’s cathartic and solid album 21 erupted onto a totally unprepared music scene like a belting volcano, drowning her contemporaries in the sheer majesty of her voice and the strength of her plaintive lyricism. Riding the Contemporary R&B wave, this blue-eyed soul singer swept the 2012 GRAMMY Awards, netting a record-tying six awards, including Artist of the Year.  However, instead of following-up immediately on her phenomenal success, Adele took a three-year hiatus from the music biz, breaking only to compose the Academy Award-winning “Skyfall” for the eponymous 2012 James Bond film.  The drought finally ended with the release of the breathtaking “Hello” in late October.  The reaction was overwhelming, with the song practically lionized by the music industry as the official music video racked up over 400,000,000 views on YouTube in less than a month.  So with all this outpouring of praise and anticipation, does the final product live up to the hype surrounding it?  Well, yes and no: yes, in that the vocals and sincerity are as superb as one would expect from Adele, but it often sounds indistinguishable from previous efforts. The promise of cap-stoning her musical Bildungsroman never quite materializes in most of the tracks.

The lead single “Hello,” of course, needs no introduction. It sets the tone of the album and ultimately stands out as its most powerful song.  This classic ballad drips with regret over a failed relationship, appearing to all the world as the mature follow up to her signature “Somebody Like You.”  But beyond its poignant message is Adele’s commanding vocal range, stretching across multiple cords, all in tune with the piano’s melodic rise and fall.  “Hello” is that rare song with the power to carry an entire album on its own, and if everything else in 25 had been sub-par, it would be worth getting the album just to hear this searching ode in its full, uninterrupted glory.

Still, while the musicianship on the album is a testament to Adele’s continuing maturity as an artist, its content still sounds like more of the same.  Tracks like “Send My Love,” with its upbeat, almost popish rhythms, and the somber, reflective “When We Were Young” hit all of the right notes – and heartstrings – but will undoubtedly feel very familiar to anyone with even a passing familiarity of her corpus.  This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, as Adele’s stratospheric vocals are nearly immune to anything mediocre.  But with the glimmer of lyrical maturity hinted in “Hello,” I’d hoped that the British songwriter would show a bit more inventiveness, especially with an array of talent as diverse as Bruno Mars, Paul Epworth, and Danger Mouse all contributing to the production.  “A Million Years Ago” is probably the most original track on the record – a calm, Spanish guitar lamentation, punctuated by Adele’s piercing voice at certain emotional peaks, that reminisces on the price of fame and its effect on those who knew her.  Otherwise, 25 is a retread over the same territory forged by 21, and while a few songs like “River Lea” and “Water Under the Bridge” stand out, respectively, for their striking imagery and retro 80s tempo, there’s nothing fundamentally adventurous here, and only the most attentive fans will spot the subtle differences between the two albums.

That shouldn’t stop anyone from giving 25 their full attention, though.  Adele is without doubt a once-in-a-generation talent, and while those looking for the much-vaulted maturity this album promised may leave disappointed, fans of this modern siren’s soulful wails of lost love will definitely find reasons to celebrate.

If you’re interested in Adele or any similar musicians we harbor here at DCPL, check out some of the hits below:

Adele – 19 and 21 are both wonderful albums, and well worth a listening even after her latest offering.

Amy Winehouse – Adele’s sister in the blue-eyed soul family, she had a rawer, more earthy voice that was tragically short cut, but still left a few gems like Back to Black and Frank.

Florence + the Machine – Though more ethereal and baroque than either of the preceding ladies, her music belts with the same maturity and range.  Definite must-haves are Lungs and Ceremonials.

 

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